a little cold for a outdoor socializing
Saturday, October 24 2020
It was warm enough this morning to have our Saturday morning coffee out on the east deck, where we never did get the panagram for the New York Time Spelling Bee, since "livenup" is not an English word. Some asshole at the bus turnaround started shooting at some point, but only occasionally. At some point I discovered the "medium spicy" injera chips Gretchen had bought in Washington, and they were so good I was actually more tolerant of that gunfire.
Later in the morning, I drove the three of us in the Nissan Leaf out to Chrissy's new house just west of Saugerties on Route 212. After the dissolution of her marriage to Nick, she'd been forced to sell her beautiful Victorian house in Kingston and look for a cheaper place to live. But the house we rolled up to didn't look like that much of a downsize. It was a rambling farm house with two or three out buildings, one of which as an impressive greenhouse, and there was even a babbling brook along the back of the property (the Beaverkill), running along a stone wall. The main problem with the house was that it was close to 212, where cars zipped by lethal highway speeds. This made me anxious when we let our dogs out, though there was so much to explore (the pear trees, the newly-populated koi pond, and underneath various structures perched on stilts) that they mostly stayed away from the road. The new place was everything anyone would ever want from a house, at least someone with the creativity and whimsy of someone like Chrissy. There were shacks and lofts, plenty of storage locations, and the greenhouse is going to be a great place to hang out in the winter time.
I felt better once we were up on the deck north of Chrissy's house and could close a gate. I needn't've worried, though, because both our dogs had found Chongo's rawhides and went off to various places inside the house to chew them. Chongo himself was more social, sitting with us on the deck as we browsed on a cheese plate Gretchen had brought. I also sipped green tea from a coffee mug that smelled like mothballs. The previous owners of the house had left all their personal belongings behind (including family albums) and moved to Florida. Their eagerness to move was partly how Chrissy got it so cheap ($250,000). This was how Chrissy came to have things like a hydraulic log splitter, a gas barbecue, and many other things.
We hadn't seen Chrissy for awhile, so of course we talked a fair amount about the ongoing pandemic and what we're going to do once it gets cold and we can't socialize outdoors any more. We also talked about the upcoming presidential election, and naturally we're all feeling the lingering dread from how things went four years ago, leavened (perhaps) with the optimism of what polls now seem to indicate. Chrissy also told us about a consigment shop she has decided to open in Catskill as means of overcoming depression (anxiety being one possible antidote).
On the way home, we made a brief detour to look at a small house on the market that our friends Cathy and Roy (the falafel people) are considering as a temporary residence while they build a more permanent place. It was cute and obviously recently-remodeled, but its "bones" were old and non-orthogonal, and the price was over $200,000. Later we learned Cathy and Roy no longer had interest in it.
This evening we'd be going across the street to Kacey & Konca's house for our first experience outdoor socializing there. The day had become gradually cooler as it had gotten later, so it seemed prudent to warm up my core. So I gathered some fallen white ash from just across the Farm Road. It was a little moist, but I used it to fill in a void in the woodshed from that time when we burned high-quality woodshed wood in the fire pit, back before I decided to only burn trashy white pine in that thing.
At 5:30pm, we crossed Dug Hill Road and went to Kacey's house directly through a narrow strip of woods, thereby keeping our dogs (who were coming) from spending any more time in the road than necessary. At the front door of her house, Kacey (standing over her yapping little dog Seamus) directed us around back, to where a gas-powered firepit-table formed sat at the center of some outdoor chairs. Konca was there, along with a Senegalese friend of his named Zach, who is sort of between things right now after being laid off by Cirque du Soleil, where he'd worked as a temporary structure expert. Our dogs did some snorting around in the nearby bushes (they'd snuck across the road many times and were much more familiar with them than I was). But then they joined us on the seats and couches, of which there weren't quite enough for all the people and all the dogs.
Out first dish was a potato and fried tofu dish in an African peanut sauce that Konca had made, and it was very good. But that was just served as an appetizer. The main course was a bunch of fluffy basmati rice, homemade naan, a cranberry kale salad, and shaag paneer made with tofu instead of cheese. As condiment, there was a bowl of cooked habañero peppers. I tore one of these into pieces and put it all over my food, which made it a bit too spicy. It also made it so I had to be wary of my fingertips for the rest of the evening.
We'd brought over a bottle of wine, even though Konca and Kacey aren't really drinkers. Konca, though, seemed eager to please those of us who were, and brought out white wine and even some blended scotch. The main people who were drinking were Zach and me, though even Gretchen had some wine.
Zach told us about his immigration story, about how he'd arrived from Senegal in 1996 speaking only Wolof and French and not knowing any English. He took an ASL course and in a couple years had a good handle on the language. As someone who managed to pull himself up by his own boostraps, I suppose it shouldn't've been surprising to hear him (and, an extent, Konca and even Powerful) say things that to my ear sounded like conservative dogma about the ability of anyone with the right attitude to succeed, essentially denying the existence of institutional barriers. More irritating was when Zach tried to claim Egyptians as Black Africans, an ahistorical view based on their mere existence on the African continent. But I wasn't going to the the one white guy at the fire to say, "Actually, the Egyptian empire was separated from Black Africa by hundreds of miles of desert and was much more closely tied to other Mediterranean cultures such as those in the Levant, Greece, and even Italy."
Somehow the topic of slavery came up, and the Senegalese present had a rather nuanced view of it, at least as the term applies to the practice within Africa. Konca said that ancestors as recent as his grandfather had owned slaves, and that he still has a relationship with the descendents of those slaves. He said whenever he sees them, it is his duty to give them a certain token amount of money. The way he described slavery as practiced in Senegal, it sounded like a form of feudalism, a situation in which slaves looked to their masters as both protectors and employers. An obvious difference between that form of slavery and the kind practiced in the United States is that in Senegal it was never obvious from looking at a person whether he likely was or was not a slave. On top of all this is the fact that Senegalese slavery was part of the system that provided slaves to places like the United States. I asked how people became slaves in the first place, and Konca and Zach explained that they'd mostly been captured soldiers. This leaves unanswered the question of where female slaves had come from.
After about four hours at the fire pit, my legs were getting cold. I also couldn't comfortably occupy my chair, since Ramona was taking up about 75% of it (she was helping to warm my back, however). So eventually I thanked our hosts and headed home by myself. Gretchen and Powerful would stay for another couple hours and the conversation would become a bit more emotionally charged on the subject of police abuses against Black Americans. Kacey is vegan and mostly one of us, but her father is a cop, and apparently how we should feel about police is one issue about which she remains fairly conservative [something Gretchen would later compare to the unquestioning zionism of her own youth].
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